New Generations, Equipped with New Technologies, Prepare to Analyze 50-Year-Old Samples in the New Year
By Natalie DiDomenico and Lonnie Shekhtman NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
GREENBELT, Md. — Fortunately for today’s scientists, Apollo-era leaders had the foresight to save much of the 842 pounds (382 kilograms) of Moon soil and rocks retrieved by NASA astronauts 50 years ago for future generations. They figured new crops of scientists, using instruments of their time, would be able to probe the samples with unprecedented rigor.
Now, the future that Apollo-era scientists envisioned has come. Their successors, many of whom weren’t even born when the last astronauts scooped up the Moon samples they’ll now be probing in their labs, are ready to take a giant leap towards answering long-standing questions about the evolution of our solar system.
By Lonnie Shekhtman NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, Md. (NASA PR) — On Friday, Oct. 11, the OSIRIS-REx team should have been preparing to point their spacecraft cameras precisely over the asteroid Bennu to capture high-resolution images of a region known as Osprey. It is one of four sites scientists are considering from which the spacecraft can safely collect a sample in late 2020.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — After a year scoping out asteroid Bennu’s boulder-scattered surface, the team leading NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission has officially selected a sample collection site.
The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) mission team concluded a site designated “Nightingale” – located in a crater high in Bennu’s northern hemisphere – is the best spot for the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to snag its sample.
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Shortly after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu, an unexpected discovery by the mission’s science team revealed that the asteroid could be active, or consistently discharging particles into space. The ongoing examination of Bennu – and its sample that will eventually be returned to Earth – could potentially shed light on why this intriguing phenomenon is occurring.
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — The Chandrayaan 2 Vikram lander was targeted for a highland smooth plain about 600 kilometers from the south pole; unfortunately the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost contact with their lander shortly before the scheduled touchdown (Sept. 7 in India, Sept. 6 in the United States). Despite the loss, getting that close to the surface was an amazing achievement.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team released the first mosaic (acquired Sept. 17) of the site on Sept. 26 and many people have downloaded the mosaic to search for signs of Vikram. Shanmuga Subramanian contacted the LRO project with a positive identification of debris. After receiving this tip, the LROC team confirmed the identification by comparing before and after images.
When the images for the first mosaic were acquired the impact point was poorly illuminated and thus not easily identifiable. Two subsequent image sequences were acquired on Oct. 14 and 15, and Nov. 11.
The LROC team scoured the surrounding area in these new mosaics and found the impact site (70.8810°S, 22.7840°E, 834 m elevation) and associated debris field. The November mosaic had the best pixel scale (0.7 meter) and lighting conditions (72° incidence angle).
The debris first located by Shanmuga is about 750 meters northwest of the main crash site and was a single bright pixel identification in that first mosaic (1.3 meter pixels, 84° incidence angle). The November mosaic shows best the impact crater, ray and extensive debris field. The three largest pieces of debris are each about 2×2 pixels and cast a one pixel shadow.
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — An international team has found sugars essential to life in meteorites. The new discovery adds to the growing list of biologically important compounds that have been found in meteorites, supporting the hypothesis that chemical reactions in asteroids – the parent bodies of many meteorites – can make some of life’s ingredients. If correct, meteorite bombardment on ancient Earth may have assisted the origin of life with a supply of life’s building blocks.
ByLonnie Shekhtman NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
GREENBELT, Md. — Forty years ago, a Voyager spacecraft snapped the first closeup images of Europa, one of Jupiter’s 79 moons. These revealed brownish cracks slicing the moon’s icy surface, which give Europa the look of a veiny eyeball. Missions to the outer solar system in the decades since have amassed enough additional information about Europa to make it a high-priority target of investigation in NASA’s search for life.
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — The glow of the Milky Way — our galaxy seen edgewise — arcs across a sea of stars in a new mosaic of the southern sky produced from a year of observations by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Constructed from 208 TESS images taken during the mission’s first year of science operations, completed on July 18, the southern panorama reveals both the beauty of the cosmic landscape and the reach of TESS’s cameras.
By Katherine Schauer NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, Md. — As we venture forward to the Moon and establish a sustained lunar presence, finding and understanding water on the lunar surface becomes increasingly important. Lunar water is largely in the form of, but not necessarily limited to, water ice. Astronauts on the Moon could use this ice for various crew needs, potentially including rocket fuel.
The Lunar IceCube mission, led by Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, will study water distribution and interaction on the Moon. The mission will carry a NASA instrument called Broadband InfraRed Compact High-Resolution Exploration Spectrometer (BIRCHES) to investigate the distribution of water and other organic volatiles. NASA scientists will use this data to understand where the water is on the Moon, its origins and how we can use it.
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — An advanced coating now being tested aboard the International Space Station for use on satellite components could also help NASA solve one of its thorniest challenges: how to keep the Moon’s irregularly shaped, razor-sharp dust grains from adhering to virtually everything they touch, including astronauts’ spacesuits.
GREENBELT, Md. — A groundbreaking technology that would allow NASA to effectively cool tightly packed instrument electronics and other spaceflight gear is unaffected by weightlessness, and could be used on a future spaceflight mission.
GREENBELT, Md. — On a metal work bench covered with tools, instruments, cords and bottles of solution, Aaron Yevick is using laser light to create a force field with which to move particles of matter.
Yevick is an optical engineer who came to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, full-time earlier this year. Despite being in his current position with NASA less than a year, Yevick received funding from the Goddard Fellows Innovation Challenge (GFIC) — a research and development program focused on supporting riskier, less mature technologies — to advance his work.
GREENBELT, Md. — A technology that has enabled ever-faster delivery of voice and data over the Internet and other telecommunications platforms could play a front-and-center role in NASA’s quest to develop a super-small instrument for gathering unprecedented details about extraterrestrial planets, moons, comets, and asteroids.
LITTLETON, Colo. (NASA PR — NASA’s Lucy mission successfully completed its Critical Design Review on Oct. 18.
During this review, Lucy team members presented the completed mission design, demonstrating that the team has met all the technical challenges of the mission and is ready to begin building hardware. After the review completion, NASA’s independent review board provided a green light for proceeding into the fabrication/manufacturing stage of the mission.
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — Several space technologies will be put to the test with the launch of a suborbital rocket at 8 p.m., EDT Tuesday, October 22, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The launch window for the mission is 8 p.m. to midnight. Backup launch days are Oct. 23 – 27. The Wallops NASA Visitor Center will open at 7 p.m. for launch viewing. Coverage of the mission will begin at 7:45 p.m. on the Wallops Facebook site. The launch may be visible in the Chesapeake Bay region.